Test & Inspection / NDT
NDT - Lab Services

Selecting an NDE Service Provider

Consider these four basic components in reviewing a potential NDE service provider.

November 11, 2013
KEYWORDS NDE
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When looking for a NDE service provider the task can be daunting, but with thought and planning put in place you can build a consistent process in selecting a high quality provider who will provide reliable support of your inspection programs.

You as the client “owner” is ultimately accountable for the results of NDE inspections and must feel confident inspections are performed of the highest integrity. NDE inspections are only as reliable as the inspector who clearly understands the methods used, codes, client specifications, and is qualified.

There are four basic components in reviewing a potential NDE service provider.

Client requirements

This component is the most crucial in obtaining an inspection provider who will meet your specifications. Communication of your expectations is key, to ensure the providers have a clear understanding of the requirements. Results of NDE inspections are utilized in the determination of pressure equipment:

  • In continuing to operate at current operating/design conditions
  • Protect people, property and the environment
  • Comply with applicable laws, rules, regulations and industry standards
  • Achieve the above in a cost effective manner

Experience has shown some organizations have limited experience in the NDE industry and look to the providers for their guidance. This scenario is no different than personal experiences in looking for contractors such as plumbers and electricians to perform repair work for their home. The contractor is looked upon as the industry expert. As with the personal experience, this could be unreliable and have possible consequences. There are several recommendations to prepare for the task of understanding the NDE industry as well as the development of a review process in obtaining a reliable NDE provider:

  • Obtain copies of SNT-TC-1A and/or CP-189, which can be purchased from the American Society for Nondestructive Testing www.asnt.org
  • Attend a Level III Basic refresher course through such organizations as www.hellierndt.com  or www.aqualified.com. This training will give you a reasonable understanding of basics within the NDE industry including SNT-TC-1A, CP-189, NDE methods, and how they relate to various materials and processes (i.e., welding, forging, casting, etc.)
  • Understand code requirements such as ASME Section V, Section VIII div. 1, and Section I, your own procedures and how they all relate.
  • For example in ASME Section VIII div.1 “UW-51(a) All welded joints to be radiographed shall be examined in accordance with Article 2 of Section V… UW-54(a) …NDE personnel have been qualified and certified in accordance with their employer’s written practice prior to performing or evaluating radiographic or ultrasonic examinations required by this division, SNT-TC-1A or CP-189 shall be used as a guideline for employers to establish their written practice.”
  • Hire a NDT Level III technologist who will have the experience of the relationship with NDE service providers, code requirements, and is considered an industry expert. This position should be one who is unbiased and will look objectively at all the service provider candidates.

Review of QA Manual and Written Practice

The initial review should be of the service provider’s quality program and his written practice. Both of these documents are at the heart of the provider’s program. Without an adequate written practice and quality program none of the other components of the provider’s service can be interpreted as meeting the client’s minimum requirements and code specifications.

The quality program should have, as a minimum, the following components:

  • Scope and how the program is applied
  • References
  • Terms and definitions
  • Management system
  • Responsibilities
  • Product
  • Measurement and analysis
  • Flow
  • Referenced procedures
  • The quality program should describe a process that meets the intent of such standards as ISO 9001:2008.

The written practice describes the requirements in experience, training, qualification and certification of NDE personnel. Codes such as ASME specify written practices shall be in accordance with either SNT-TC1A or CP-189.

SNT-TC-1Ais arecommended practicethat has been prepared to establish guidelines for the qualification and certification of NDT personnel whose specific jobs require appropriate knowledge of the technical principles underlying the nondestructive tests they perform, witness, monitor or evaluate. As stated above this is a recommended guideline in the development of the employer’s written practice. In theory this gives the author the flexibility to use this guideline as direction and does not require the written practice to be verbatim. There is interpretation that when codes such as ASME identify the employer’s written practice be in accordance with SNT-TC-1A there should be less flexibility. Regardless of the use of this document as a guideline, when the employer states his written practice is in accordance with SNT-TC-1A he is indicating his written practice meets that intent.

CP-189is a standardthat establishes the minimum requirements for the qualification and certification of nondestructive testing (NDT). Being a standard this document details the minimum training, education and experience requirements for NDT personnel and provides criteria for documenting qualifications and certifications. As in SNT-TC-1A, flexibility to adjust the employer’s written practice does not exist. The employer’s written practice, as a minimum, shall comply with this standard’s requirements.

Additionally there are two words within both the guideline and standard that are significant: “should” and “shall.” When “should” is used there is an option to comply, “shall” defines a requirement and evidence is required to ensure compliance. Examples include:

SNT-TC-1A – “4.3.1 NDT Level I. An NDT Level I individual should be qualified to properly perform specific calibrations, specific NDT, and specific evaluations for acceptance or rejection determinations according to written instructions and to record results. The NDT Level I should receive the necessary instruction and supervision from a certified NDT Level II or III individual.”

CP-189 – “3.3 NDT Level II. An NDT Level II shall have the skills and knowledge to set up and calibrate equipment, to conduct tests, and to interpret, evaluate, and document results in accordance with procedures approved by an NDT Level III.”

Central certification schemes also could come into play when reviewing the employer’s written practice. Consider such programs as ASNT’s ACCP or in the case of Canada their CGSB 48-9712 program. As with all central certification schemes the certification is based on the required experience, training, qualifications and the successful passing of the required examinations. The one issue that should be addressed is where the specific and practical examinations taken to obtain the central certification are based on generic procedures. The employer’s written practice should require that when a technician holds a valid central certification he must take and pass a specific and practical examination based on the employer’s procedures as well as any client specific procedures identified. This assures the technician is familiar with his employer’s procedures as well as those of the client he will be supporting.

The backbone of any inspection program is the written practice.

Obtain Method Procedures

Once a review has been completed of the quality program and written practice then a review of their supporting method procedures should be performed. A recommended technique for this review would be to develop a checklist using the specific paragraphs within the specified code and/or client specification. The comparison of what is stated within these codes or specifications will determine if the provider understands what is needed to comply. Such codes as ASME are based on recognized and good engineering practices and such programs as the National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) and American Petroleum Institute (API) demand the manufacture, repair and alteration of pressure equipment meet the intent of the Code. This review must be performed against the identified client expectations, again to ensure understanding and how the provider will be determined as successful.

When the client specifications exceed what is identified within the Code, there can be two directions the service provider can support these requirements. The provider can either add an addendum to an existing procedure or develop client specific. Both will require the provider to perform periodic reviews with the client to ensure current procedures are in place as with any annual code revision.

Once contract is provided

Communication is essential to any inspection program. Once a provider has been selected there should be constant communication beginning with an orientation between client and provider to address any concerns or questions. The client should at this point indicate any oversight of the provider that will be part of the inspection program. This oversight would include the following:

  • Review on-site performance based on what the provider has indicated how they will comply
  • Periodic review of records both from on-site as well as main contract facility
  • Provide technician certifications, etc.
  • Quarterly stewardship to ensure complete compliance and understanding.

Pressure equipment is designed to operate under specific conditions. When conditions such as cracks, porosity, dimensional and/or hydrostatic testing during manufacture and erosion, corrosion and cracks which occur during operation affects the ability of this equipment to meet the original design criteria. To address these issues and determine if all conditions are as designed, reliable nondestructive testing program and compliance to code/specifications has proven to be a viable asset in providing compliance, specifics such as material thickness, trending of deterioration, and used to determine expected life.

The integration of the client “owner” and a quality driven inspection service provider supports mechanical integrity of pressure equipment for a safe and productive operation.

References

  1. American Society for Nondestructive Testing, PO Box 28518 , 1711 Arlingate Lane, Columbus, OH 43228-0518, USA
  2. Hellier South-Central, 16631 West Hardy Road, Houston, TX 77060-6239, (281) 873-0980
  3. Aqualified, 525 Webb Industrial Drive, Marietta, Georgia 30062, 770.422.1349
  4. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Three Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
  5. American Society for Nondestructive Testing, PO Box 28518 , 1711 Arlingate Lane, Columbus, OH 43228-0518, USA
  6. The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors | 1055 Crupper Avenue Columbus, OH 43229 Ph.614.888.8320
  7. API, 1220 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005-4070, USA

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